05/08/2019, 17.11
BANGLADESH
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Increased security around Bangladeshi churches following Sri Lanka attacks

by Sumon Corraya

Police boost their presence near Christian places of worship. Security forces give advice on how to recognise dangers. The country’s prime minister calls for high alert.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Bangladesh has boosted security around the country’s churches to prevent terrorist attacks. This follows the Easter Sunday bombings against three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka, which killed 257 people.

More police and security forces have been deployed near Christian places of worship. "In the past there were three agents in front of the main door of the church; now there are ten,” said Fr Kamal Corraya, pastor at a church in Tejgaon, Dhaka.

“After the massacres in Sri Lanka, we gathered with the members of the parish council and decided to increase surveillance, especially during Sunday masses," he explained.

Hence, he issued a warning to his congregation, asking them not to bring large bags to church. "Security guards don't know the identity of worshippers, so they have to check the bags of everyone entering the church."

Similar preventive measures have also been taken in the port city of Chattogram (ex Chittagong), in the south of the country. One of the places closely monitored is the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, in ​​the city’s Patherghata area.

"In addition to policemen, there are sometimes agents of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) to guarantee our security," said Fr Jermon D’Rozario, assistant parish priest. The RAB is the elite anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police.

To increase awareness among parish priests of the danger of attacks by affiliates of the Islamic State, and how to prevent them, the local law enforcement organised an ad hoc meeting in the Diocese of Barisal on 2 May at the Catholic church in Narikelbari. About 92 clergymen were present.

Fr Loton Gomes, assistant of the local parish priest, noted that "there are many small Protestant congregations in the area, in addition to the Catholic churches. Police gave us some useful tips, like installing video surveillance cameras, increasing the number of guards and avoiding large bags. We must be suspicious of people we do not know and who might try to avoid the request for identification by the agents."

After the attacks in Sri Lanka, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called on her fellow Bangladeshis to "stay alert” in the face of threats.

In fact, the country was the scene of terror attacks in the past. In 2016 the attack against Holy Artisan Bakery Café in Dhaka claimed the lives of 20 people, mostly foreigners.

"Today [Islamist] militancy,” said the prime minister, “isn’t just a problem in Bangladesh, but has become a global issue".

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